The United States and other NATO member nations have repeatedly demand unquestioning respect for the Ukraine’s “territorial integrity,” spurning the idea of the country splitting up. Yet direct NATO intervention to impose this position seems unlikely.
After Western-backed protesters took over the nation, the Crimea’s ethnic Russian majority has been pushing for secession and a possible return to Russian control. Crimea’s parliament has backed a referendum, and pro-secessionist forces have taken much of the provincial capital.
Western officials are treating this as Russia’s fault, and are likewise treating a Russian promise to “respect the sovereignty of Ukraine” as the end to the Crimean secession movement. Yet indications on the ground suggest it is not.
Barring a surprise invasion for some nation or other, that leaves the matter of crushing the secessionist movement to the Ukraine “interim government,” which doesn’t seem to have much support in Crimea beyond the ethnic Tatar minority.
Rather than a problem of external interference, the Ukraine-Crimea split reflects a very real internal fracture in Ukrainian politics, and before the takeover the secessionist movement was centered in Lviv, where pro-Western demonstrators were hoping to split off historical Halych-Volyn as a separate nation. No matter which side is in power, a significant portion of the Ukraine is inconsolable, and ready to split the nation.